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A No. 1 WR Who Likes Blocking in Run Game? Count DeVonta Smith In

The Eagles receivers have been instrumental in a rushing attack that has climbed all the way up the second-best in the NFL
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PHILADELPHIA – The irony of this run-first offense the Eagles have thrived in for a month now is that they spent their last two first-round picks on pass catchers.

The 2021 pick, DeVonta Smith has separated himself from the 2020 pick, Jalen Reagor, in the offense, though, biding his time waiting for a pass to be thrown his way.

Not that he minds.

And not that he has had to wait too terribly long.

He has been targeted 74 times, with 46 catches for 664 yards (14.4 ypc) and four touchdowns, and should break DeSean Jackson's rookie record of 912 yards receiving set in 2008.

“When it (the run game) is being that successful, you enjoy watching those guys get their chance doing what they do," said Smith. "Eventually, it’s going to open up the pass game sooner or later. So every game just keep chipping away.”

It was kind of that way on draft night too, for Smith - just biding his time.

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The reigning Heisman Trophy winner, fresh off a superlative career at the University of Alabama, sat back and waited to see who would take him. The Giants appeared all set to grab him at No. 11, until the Eagles swooped in, trading up from No 12 to No. 10, swapping picks with Dallas Cowboys.

“I’m glad to be a Philadelphia Eagle,” Smith said. “I’m glad to be here…I was just sitting there, like, whoever called, that’s who called. I mean, when the Eagles traded up, I kind of knew that was where I was going to be.”

Smith will get a chance to show the Giants what they got beat on when the two teams play for the first time this season, teeing it up on Sunday (1 p.m./FOX).

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Smith’s rookie season is going along just fine, even though he is the No. 1 receiver on a team that is second in the NFL in rushing, averaging more than 153 yards on the ground.

The WRs have done yeomen’s work in the run game.

“The receivers are an integral part of what we’re doing up front,” said center Jason Kelce. “Nick (Sirianni) has harped on that all offseason, coming from that realm. That was something he really emphasized a lot, and you can see those guys have taken to that a lot. Whether it’s running the screens on the outside and asking them to take out a safety. Or on a run play and asking them to block the bubble (screens) and whatnot.

“Those guys have all embraced and know they’re going to be held accountable to do that job. And when they all do that, that makes the defense respect everything else that much more and defend the entire width of the field. If everybody’s doing that stuff on the outside, it makes our job a lot easier.”

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Smith certainly has taken to blocking.

His fingerprints are all over a rushing attack that has posted back-to-back 200-yard games for the first time since 1978.

“I think a lot of teams take it for granted how much we need help from the wide receivers in run schemes and when you can have a guy like Smitty to do those things and to have an impact, it’s incredible,” said left tackle Jordan Mailata. “We’re incredibly lucky to have him. Kudos to his work ethic to be honest. He’s just a hard worker, very detailed, very professional.”

Smith is far from some of the prima donnas that dot his position across the NFL landscape.

He is just fine with blocking.

Most definitely,” he said. “I feel like as a receiver, that’s your time to kind of get your shot back at a DB. Every time, they always get a chance to hit you every play, but you don’t necessarily get a chance to be really physical with them. So with blocking, I feel like that’s your time.”

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.